Criss

REVIEW: Criss – Cat #1 (1994)

CRISS CAT 1_0001CRISS – Cat #1 (1994 Tony Nicole Tony)

I am a Kiss fan, and I am also a Peter Criss fan. I like his first bunch of post-Kiss solo albums, Out of Control and Let Me Rock You just fine. They are not perfect but they have some good songs and are enjoyable, if dated, slices of the era.  I think most fans would grudgingly admit that Let Me Rock You isn’t bad.

Cat #1 (terrible title!) was supposed to be Peter’s comeback, after a decade of working with bands that went nowhere such as Balls Of Fire and The Keep (with Mark St. John). He later assembled the Criss band, which included Mike Stone (who would later end up in Queensryche). Cat #1 was also preceded by a mail order EP simply called Criss, with some exclusive songs.  That release was marred by an incompetent record company who took close to a year to mail out the orders.

Unfortunately, Peter did not need a record company to tank this release.  This CD tanked itself.  The problems with Cat #1 are three-fold:

1. No great songs.
2. Bland, uninspired performances and terrible singing by the backing band.
3. Bad production and plastic sounding drums.

The one good song is “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn”, the heartfelt ballad written for Peter’s mom who had passed away recently.  This song, though imperfect, justifies me having it my collection.  (Well, that and it’s Kiss related.)  Phil Naro co-wrote this one, and diehard fans know he’s a talented guy who has written some pretty good songs.  It’s just too bad that “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn” wasn’t fully realized by an ace band and producer.  Somebody to help Peter know when he’s singing flat, you know?

Naro wrote two tunes here, “Bad People Burn In Hell” is the other.  It’s not bad either.  It’s a fun rocker where Peter gets to sing in his Elvis voice for a bit. But that’s basically it. The rest of the songs sound like a hodge-podge of unrelated bits stuck together, and wouldn’t even pass as filler on the worst Kiss albums. You could probably Frankenstein bits and pieces from these songs to make one good song out of the bunch of them, but that’s all. For example, the chorus from “Strike” is decent, put that with the verses from “Bad Attitude”…you know what I mean?  Maybe you could make one good song out of them.   (“Bad Attitude” by the way seems to be about that homeless man who claimed to be Peter as documented on the Phil Donahue show. Remember that?)

CRISS CAT 1_0002The production though is terribly bland, and Peter’s drums sound like triggered samples.  They really sound terrible.  The drum sound alone robs Peter of the swing.  It’s distracting.  His singing is good in spots, and he actually wails pretty good on tracks like “Bad Attitude”.  “Bad Attitude” is vintage Kiss vocally, but shite musically.

Mike Stone sings lead on a couple tracks, and his voice is like…how do I describe this? He’s like Glenn Tipton meets an asthmatic Dave Mustaine or something. Not a good singer at all. When he takes the lead on tracks like “Show Me”, it sinks the song. Even when he backs Peter up on songs like “Bad Attitude”, it’s weak. A third voice is singing on “We Want You”, who I assume from the writing credits is Mike McLaughlin. His voice is even weaker, it’s like a raspy whisper.

Finally Peter recycled “Beth”, yet again.  It was great to finally have an unplugged acoustic version of the song, but he has really milked that one, hasn’t he?  It’s a good version, and it’s a slightly different mix from the one used on the earlier EP.

As marked on the cover art itself, Ace Frehley plays guitar on three songs: “Bad Attitude,” “Walk the Line,” and “Blue Moon over Brooklyn”. But you can’t really tell.   Let’s talk a moment about that cover art. Actually, let’s not: You can see it for yourself, so you decide what you think.  Challenge yourself to come up with one-word descriptions and post them in the comments.

1/5 stars

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REVIEW: Criss – Criss (1993 EP)

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CRISS – Criss Special Limited Edition (1993 EP, TNT Records)

At long last, Peter Criss was releasing new music, for the first time since 1982’s Let Me Rock You, over a decade prior.  Tellingly, it was a mail-order only release, on a small California label called Tony Nicole Tony Records.  It ran me over $40 Canadian (with shipping) to order it.  It was a limited edition, all copies to be numbered and signed by the Cat himself.

An angry letter and six months later, I finally received my Criss EP to find that the hyped signature was just printed on.  Yes, it was numbered (mine is #2408), but for $40…come on.

I overlooked the sad artwork of Peter’s face, half painted in his old cat makeup, and hair bleached blonde.  I cracked the seal, put the disc in and hit play.

I was struck immediately by the poor production.  The drums sound awful.  For a solo EP by a drummer, I was hoping for better sounding drums than this.  Peter’s singing was OK, but the lyrics?  He does this section near the end of the the first song, “The Cat”, that was just…stinky.

Listen to this one now.
Gene and Paul went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
Gene fell down and broke his crown,
And Paul came tumbling over.

And then his does this weird high pitched shriek that is so embarrassingly terrible, that I couldn’t believe it made it only to the album.  Well, it could only get better from there.

Nope.

The same awful sounding drums, rapping, and another awful lyric:

Planes, trains and limozines,
So what? What does it mean?
We’re burning down like Mercury,
God bless the Killer Queen.

This time the singer isn’t Peter, but a fellow with a mohawk called Mike Stone.  This same Mike Stone would later end up in a band called Queensryche.  And if anything was worse than Peter’s shrieking on track one, it’s Mike Stone’s singing on track two.  And the song sucks, too.

“Good Times”, an electric ballad with a soulful vocal from Peter, is pretty good.  It has the vibe of something that would have fit onto Peter’s 1978 solo album, without the schlock.  OK, one good song.  At least there’s one.

But then Mike Stone rears his ugly mohawk again, on a song called “What You’re Doing”.  No, not the Rush tune.  It’s not a bad song, but Stone’s truly awful singing renders it unlistenable.  Finally, Peter saves this drowning EP with an acoustic remake of “Beth”.  It must be remembered that up to this point, an acoustic version of “Beth” had never been released.  It was presented that way in the Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park movie, but until this EP, you couldn’t buy it like that.  So this is cool, and slightly different from the version that later ended up on the Cat #1 album.

I have no doubt this is very rare today, and I’ve never seen another copy.  If you can find it, great.  But you may not need to listen to it.

1.5/5 stars